DCMud is doing an interesting series on how D.C.’s Height Act—100 years old this month—has affected the urban landscape. One of the recent entries, by architect Sacha Rosen, discusses how the forced shortness of buildings makes for an abundance of space for rooftop gardens. “No other city has the potential for the reintegration of plants and landscapes into a dense urban environment on such a grand scale,” Rosen concludes. “And this sustainable vision is only possible as a result of our building height limits and urban plan.”
Indeed, D.C. had the second largest amount of green space installed on roofs in 2009, after Chicago. It certainly is a beautiful vision—living roofs across the city, visible from any higher vantagepoint as a carpet of creation rather than concrete.
But these spaces aren’t like the public parks with which our city is also blessed. They’re the preserves of only those lucky enough to live in a building with such an amenity, which certainly comes at a premium: New condo complexes use green roofs as a selling point, but how many landlords of the city’s older, lower-rent buildings will ever install planter boxes and lawns? Were the city in better financial shape, I’d love to see a tax incentive to help spread the greenery around, either for building owners to convert their roofs or for those with existing green roofs to grant some degree of public access to these spaces. Public access could be considered a community benefit for developments recieving city funding, and public buildings with accessible green roofs should certainly promote them as parkland.
Let D.C.’s height limits work for all!
Photo by flickr user 416style.